Song For the Dry Season: Banga Hill

(from Eric)

The dry season is now fully advanced here at Kibuye.  The rains stopped sometime in late May, and have yet to restart.  The red dirt has become red dust.  The banana leaves next to the hospital road are colored copper by the powder tossed up by passing taxis.  The sky is hazy, and the leaves of the eucalyptus crackle like paper instead of their normal rustle.  

We wait for the rain.  We wait for green and growth.  We wait for the air to be washed out and the sky to return to its normal brilliant blue.  It should come within the next few weeks.  So I guess we'll just have to be patient and trust that maybe the dry season pushes the roots down deeper.  Maybe the foundation gets stronger.

We arrived in Burundi in August of 2013, and we moved to the hillside community of Banga, to study Kirundi for 3 months. It was dry then as well.  People told us stories about decades ago, during the war.  They told us that Banga had been hard hit, in a way that dovetailed with the end of the dry season, with the coming of cleansing rain.  I'm not in a position to verify their stories one way or another, but the imagery was striking, and so I wrote a song.

It's about rain washing the haze away.  It's about rain washing bloodstains away.  It's about the curious Christian truth that blood can actually wash stains away.  And through it all, we cry "Lord, send your rain."  It's been coming often to mind these last few weeks, as we wait for the rains to come.

Banga Hill
(click below then select track #9 to listen, download for free)

Here at the end of the dry season
I sit on the veranda and watch the sun
Sinking behind the hills ten miles away
as every tiny farm soaks up its rays
and when the rains come
they say I’ll see twice as far
as this dusty haze is washed away.

They say that it wasn’t so many years ago
the war came and cut the fleeing down
the hillside ran with blood for days and days
until the rain came and washed it away
Now they’re left with the pieces
of a life that’s left behind
a life maybe to somehow find.

Lord, send your rain, fall on all where we are
Though thirsty, we have run all from your well - on Banga Hill

It’s Friday morning and the people climb
up the hill into the church next door
A song is raised in beauty and in strength
the bread is broken and the cup is poured
it’s blood spilled out
that is somehow like the rain
it washes away all the stain

Bless the rain, falling on us now
the worst and the best, the hatred and love
on the old, and on the young
and let it fall on us, for we are all 
on Banga Hill

(5 Sept 2013 - Banga)


Gearing Up for School

by Jess Cropsey

I have been amazed to see on Facebook so many kids already going back to school!  As a teacher, I cringe at the thought of going back to school in early August, but I’m sure there are many happy parents.  :)  

Here at Kibuye, we have a particularly long summer.  We wrapped up in mid-May to send off our beloved teacher and get ready for a Serge Conference in Spain.  Despite our early finish, Kibuye Hope Academy’s 4th (can you believe it?!) school year won’t start until late September while we await the arrival of 3 new families (Banks, Baskins, Nimmons) and a new intern.    

One of my projects for the summer has been getting our new school ready to go.  This beautiful building was completed in late April and we finished off our final two weeks of last school year there, but it was a little chaotic.  We added quite a few new items with the arrival of the last container, so that all needed to be sorted.  I am pleased to write that it is pretty much ready to go!  

When our family was back in the USA for a few months last summer, we discovered that the school where John & I graduated from high school would be closing its doors after four decades.  Calvary Christian Academy was the place where our romance began many years ago and just for kicks I'll include a graduation photo. 

I was thrilled when they graciously offered for us to take anything we could use in Burundi before their sale opened to the general public.  We are really grateful for the beautiful desks, chairs, filing cabinets, tables, books, school supplies, and various other items that they donated to our little school.  They also sold us 3 really nice student desktops for a great price so that we can have one computer in each room.  Go Cougars!  We also gave some of their old jerseys to the local soccer team, so we often get to see a Burundian CCA Cougar running around Kibuye.  

I would also like to give a huge thanks to Caleb Fader & Tony Sykes (with EMI) for helping supervise this project and the many Burundian construction workers who did such a nice job.  And a shout-out to David, the architect with EMI, who gave some suggestions to improve our layout and make it a really wonderful space.  

The school building is set right in the middle of the large space where the majority of our residential homes are, so it’s a quick commute for everyone!  The Watts’ kids have already timed it — less than 10 seconds from their front door to the school (at a run, of course).  

Carlan designed our awesome school logo and he & Michelle painted a beautiful sign for our school when they were here for a brief visit in June, with space left on the book to later fill in with a school verse chosen by the kids themselves.  (Can you see the shape of Africa in the green part of the tree?) 

There is a wide hallway at the main entrance with little cubbies and coat hooks for each student (18 “enrolled” for next school year).  The belfry (which does not in fact house a bell) lets in a lot of natural light.  There has been some discussion about adding a rock climbing wall here, but I think the kids may meet some resistance to that idea.  Off the hallway, we have three classrooms, a bathroom, and a small storage room. 

This is the largest of the rooms and will be the main classroom for our 5 kindergarteners as well as larger combined classes like music, art, Kirundi, etc.  We included a sink here for science & art classes.   

In this same large room, we have an awesome reading loft in one corner, built by the multi-talented Dr. Jason Fader.  The kids LOVE this space!  We also have some bookshelves that function as the team library, with both adult & kids’ books available to be “checked out”.   

This classroom will be for our 6 second graders.  

The third classroom will be a combined classroom for six 4th-7th graders, who are together for all their classes except math.   

Because I like to organize things, I had to include this photo of our storage closet.  I know some of you will understand how beautiful this is.  A big thanks to teammate Nicole, a kindred spirit when it comes to organizing.  And I would be remiss to not also thank my husband for indulging my endless requests to build shelves (shown here) and hang chalkboards, bulletin boards, curtain rods, etc.     

We have a great schedule set up for our TCKs (third-culture kids) and are incredibly thankful that God provided Scott & Lindsay Nimmon to join our team to help lead the education of our kids.  Many of the moms are also heavily involved in the teaching schedule, so you can pray that we would work well together.  Scott & Lindsay are currently at a cross-cultural training course and have purchased tickets to arrive in Burundi on September 11th.  They still need an estimated $1800/month in financial support to serve here at Kibuye.  Please pray that God would supply the remainder of their support and if you would like to help, please click here

I'm super excited for a new school year to start!  
Go _______!  (school mascot yet to be determined...)



The Treasure Trove of Other People's Random Left-Behind Stuff

(from Eric, with multiple photo credits to George)

One of the lesser-known (but nonetheless reliable) aspects of rural missionary life is the vestiges of random stuff that has been left behind by other missionaries.  Seriously, you wouldn't believe the finds that are possible.  When we arrived at Kibuye, there had been no longterm western missionaries for several years.  Years later, we are still uncovering things left behind by uncertain characters from Kibuye's missionary past.

Why are there so many interesting finds?  I can think of several reasons:
1.  Missionaries have a tendency towards being conservationist/thrifty types, which translates sometimes into saving things to the point of hoarding.
2.  Getting rid of things is much harder than you would think.  There is no Goodwill to drop things off at.  In fact, if you drop things off at Goodwill and then they don't sell at the Goodwill store, it is entirely possible that they will end up in Burundi.  Yes, there is plenty of need, and we can give things away.  But personally giving all this stuff away takes enormous energy and it can be easier just to store it.
3.  Supply chains in Africa are very unpredictable.  Almost every food, commodity, and medicine runs out sooner or later.  So better store up just in case.
4.  Visitors bring things for "others" to use.  They are never the "others" that use them.  Kibuye was only visitors for several years before we came, so it was kind of a one-way valve.  We're happy to be the opening of the other side of that valve.

Here now some of the great finds of Kibuye's missionary past.  Where did these things come from?  We have no idea.  Who left them?  We can only guess.  We prefer to maintain the mystique a bit.

Category 1:  We Will Never Use This.

This "New Plastic Crystal Chandelier Lamp Fixture" dates from I don't know when.  Maybe 1960 guessing by the font, and the way "Plastic" seems to be the selling point more than "Crystal".  In the box are all the requisite pieces.  Never used.  Still "New", in fact.  Why was it never used?  Why will we never use such a treasure?  Because we already have it's twin, proudly hung in Chez Watts, with an LED bulb in the middle.  Truly, it is a treasure.

Category 2: We might just use this.  But...Wow.
George found this just a few months ago, hiding in a storage room.  Noting the 25 cent coupon is cool.  Noting the expiration date is even cooler.  Now, as far as we can tell, the house that the storage room belongs to was built around 1981.  This begs an interesting question.  Did it come from an older missionary house?  Did someone donate it years after the coupon's expiration?  Did someone donate it precisely because the coupon was expired?  Did someone ship it and it got lost in shipping for a long, long time?  We will never know.

Category 3: Oh yeah, we'll use this.
A spontaneous kids' dance party breaks out with a scenic backdrop.  Note the leopard (? I think) skin on the wall.  Where did that come from?  Was it legal?  When I was in college, my roommates and I hung a 1970's portrait of a middle-aged man with a combover on our living room wall, with a brass nameplate that read "Winston Porter".  It was not so much beautiful as it was thought-provoking and conversation-starting.  I think the parallel goes without saying.

The spear is cool, but only as an afterthought given its neighbors.  The ancient telephone has survived remodeling, as I think we can all agree that it should.  It is a curious device, going nowhere that we can tell.  It has an unexpected electric light on the bottom that serves the now-functional purpose of informing the inhabitants of the room whether the power is on or not.  Like the tinfoil, the phone serves as an internal anachronism.  It's a telephone circa what?  Maybe 1940?  The building is old but nowhere near that old.  So why was a 40-year old telephone installed into a new missionary house?  For precisely the same reason that it will stay.  Because it is awesome.

Category 4: I can't believe we get to use this!
And then sometimes you strike gold.  Just last month, in an effort to clean a storage area out totally in order to renovate it into a guest apartment, we found a large movie screen, totally new, presumably purchased decades ago for rural movie screenings.  We busted it out, ran some extension cords outside, and hosted a neighborhood movie night.  Quite the sight for our Burundian neighbors, as well as our kids.  We have since repeated it, and I'm sure it will be used again.